Australia Politics: Canberra's proposed crackdown on foreign interference
The Chinese Foreign Ministry says it has no intention of interfering in Australia's internal affairs. The remarks come in response to the Australian government's proposed crackdown on foreign influence and interference, citing concerns about China. Greg Navarro has more from Sydney.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the proposed crackdown on foreign influence on his country's political system wasn't directed at any one country.
MALCOLM TURNBULL AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER "Foreign interference is a global issue."
But when talking about plans to stiffen penalties to curb foreign political donations, he did mention Australia's largest trading partner.
MALCOLM TURNBULL AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER "Now we have recently seen disturbing reports about Chinese influence. I take those reports as do my colleagues, very seriously."
That prompted a response by China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang. China has no intention of interfering with Australia's internal affairs, he said, and has no intentions of using political funds to influence Australia's internal affairs. The new legislation was introduced a week after Labor Senator Sam Dastyari was sacked as deputy whip, after news reports linked Dastyari to his interactions with a Chinese businessman.
STEWART JACKSON, LECTURER UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY "So Dastyari is really, if you like, the catalyst, the fall guy for the whole episode. It's an attempt to wedge the labor party, so it is an attempt to say the labor party has done something wrong therefore, the electorate should be aware of it."
GREG NAVARRO SYDNEY "Australia's proposed laws are modelled after similar legislation in the US and would criminalise foreign interference. They would also require lobbyists top register when working for foreign companies."
Australia's Attorney General said that certain groups, such as the University of Sydney Technology's Australia China Relations Institute, could also have to register.
GEORGE BRANDIS AUSTRALIAN ATTORNEY GENERAL "We have learned that there are many varieties of foreign interference in the Australian political system."
JAMES LAURENCESON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR AUSTRALIA-CHINA RELATIONS INSTITUTE, UTS "We had some initial funding from one of the gentleman who has been the focus of this tilt in Australia over the last 12 months towards being quite concerned or skeptical, or even fearful of China, but the reality is we don't receive funding from that source anymore, we are funded by UTS and yet we are still caught up in this, and that is why this makes me think that this is not such a cut and dried issue - I think it is probably directed at the China ties a bit more generally."
China remains Australia's number one trading partner. The two way trade between the two countries last year topped $155 billion AUD.
PROFESSOR TIM HARCOURT UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES "For the most part, for any foreign nation or foreign company, you don't get good value for money in Australia for trying to buy politicians. You get good value for money as importers, as exporters, as foreign investors, as sources of capital."
The government's proposed legislation now heads to Parliament for approval. Greg Navarro, CGTN, Sydney.